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Barney's Version Movie Review

Updated on January 15, 2013
Barney Has a Bit of a Drinking Problem
Barney Has a Bit of a Drinking Problem
Barney is hardly ever without a cigar
Barney is hardly ever without a cigar
Barney & Rachelle Lefevre, wife #1
Barney & Rachelle Lefevre, wife #1
Wedding #1 Barney and Rachelle "well I thought it was yours" Lefevre
Wedding #1 Barney and Rachelle "well I thought it was yours" Lefevre
Barney & Dad, in the bag at wedding #2
Barney & Dad, in the bag at wedding #2
Barney & #2 Minnie Driver
Barney & #2 Minnie Driver
Heart to heart talk with Dad--"All right, let's do it." (It=#3 Rosamund Pike)
Heart to heart talk with Dad--"All right, let's do it." (It=#3 Rosamund Pike)
Barney's Wife #3 Rosamund Pike
Barney's Wife #3 Rosamund Pike
Barney and #3
Barney and #3

"Barney's Version" A Brief Review

Barney's Version is a comedy based on Mordecai Richler's novel which covers Barney Panofsky's life as a young man in Rome with his boozed and druggy artist and writer friends, his three marriages and three divorces and continues through Barney's career as a successful producer of TV soaps. Barney drinks too much and is never without a cigar. As you will see, he's quite impulsive. Many might consider him obnoxious. Barney's father, played by Dustin Hoffman, is a retired Montreal policeman who also drinks too much and is quite a womanizer.

Barney marries wife number one in Rome, played by Rachelle Lefevre, when she tells him she's expecting his baby. A few months later when the baby is born the obstetrician emerges from the delivery room and asks Barney to help locate the still born baby's father. Barney is puzzled until he's informed by the that the baby isn't white. Barney doesn't react well to this little surprise, and at first opportunity punches out his black friend and confronts Rachelle whose only response was "Well, I thought it was yours." Result: divorce number one.

Later, Barney falls for Minnie Driver back in Montreal. Her parents are wealthy Montreal Jews who at their meet-the-family dinner are mortified by Barney's table manners and his father's crude cop jokes. Nevertheless, they consent to the marriage and schedule a huge wedding complete with the cream of Montreal Jewry. Barney and his father ignore the guests and get drunk at the reception while watching the Montreal Canadiens on TV playing for the Stanley Cup. Minnie's father tells the bartender to stop serving Barney's father which doesn't go over well with Barney or his father. About then Barney spots a beautiful woman across the room and falls for her head over heels. He bails on the wedding reception and manages to get on the train with her for New York. She talks him into getting off and returning to his new wife.

He stays married to Minnie until he catches her in bed with his old druggie writer friend from Rome who drops in looking for a place to dry out. Again, Barney reacts unfavorably, gets drunk and assaults his friend who disappears into the lake after Barney fires a couple of shots with the pistol his father gave him for a wedding present. The movie doesn't make it clear whether Barney's shots hit his friend or not. Barney searches but is unable to find the body. He calls the police who suspect foul play when they find Barney's pistol with two empty cartridges. But without a body no charges are brought.

Barney seeks the advice of his father who advises him to divorce Minnie Driver and "go for it" (Rosamund Pike) in New York. Barney manages to persuade Rosamond to become wife number three. Their marriage lasts much longer than numbers one and two. They produced two children and were happy until Rosamund announces that she is going to return to her career in television in New York City. Barney doesn't like this but accepts her decision and they remain married until Rosamund discovers that Barney had been unfaithful to her with a hooker after getting drunk in a bar while she was at work. Result: divorce number three.

I'll stop here, short of the ending which wasn't especially happy except for Dustin Hoffman who died "with a smile on his face" in a bordello.

To enjoy this movie you have to approach it as a comedy or you'll find it a complete downer. Paul Giamatti was superb as Barney, Dustin Hoffman as his horny father, and Barney's three wives were also convincing. Giamatti received a Golden Globe award for his performance. I haven't read Richler's book on which the movie was based so I'm unable to offer a comparison of it with the movie.

Giamatti and the make-up artists did an amazing job of portraying Barney convincingly from his twenties until his sixties.

Director: Richard Lewis

Screenwriter: Michael Konyves

[The movie is rated R for sexual scenes and profanity.]

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    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      7 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      I think you['d like it. I thought of your book, "Eyes of Emerald" when I saw it. All but one of the characters are Jewish.

    • profile image

      Harvey Stelman 

      7 years ago

      Ralph, I won't see it until it's on TV, but you gave me interest. H

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      7 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      I agree with your observations. Thanks. Also MM & PR.

    • profile image

      Henry R 

      7 years ago

      "Version" is the most memorable film I've seen this year! I see one or two/week and enjoy them all but can't remember much about most of them even a week later. But "Version" has stuck with me.

      One point Ralph's review left out is that it is not just a comedy, but a ROMANTIC comedy -- nothing like the usual chic flick RCs. This is more of a guy flick without chase scenes and any significant violence. Importantly, within the romantic/guy aspect, it explores the notion of what being soul-mates can mean and how it inspires the best in those lucky enough to find their soul-mate, as Barney and Miriam did.

      This film is both an outrageous comedy and a serious drama, extremely well blended together. It has 3 elements that I look for: teaches me something, entertaining and convincing, and always taking a surprising turn. "Version" has all three (you might ask, what does it teach -- how much a guy has to loose if he screws up big time with his soul mate, for one). AND -- who could have seen that surprising ending coming? There WAS, ONE hint but I only got it retrospectively.

      Guys, go see it! Gals too.

    • PR Morgan profile image

      PR Morgan 

      7 years ago from Sarasota Florida

      I love Giamatti, and by what you say in your review, I'm sure I will like this one!

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      I really like your straight-ahead, play-by-play approach to the review, Ralph. It's refreshing to get the "male perspective."

      Great advice to view the film as a comedy (and yes, I believe people DO need that "warning" or else they might get all depressed by Barney's self-destruction, like I did!)

      Voting this up and will link your review to mine!

      Cheers, MM

      P.S. What a thrill to be the first to comment!!!

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